Input sought on future of Middlebury parks

Trails and connections to trails are among features parks and recreation planners expect residents want. This is the Pumpkinvine Trail around the eastern portion of the county during the Maple City Walk.

MIDDLEBURY — Before it goes any further with its plans, the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department is seeking public input.

“The (parks) board does have some vision of what we would like to see happen, but we’re trying to see what the public wants,” Middlebury parks superintendent Tom Enright said.

Launching a survey and seeking mail-in input, the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Board is preparing to put together its 2020 Master Plan.

“Public input is a requirement for the plan but we feel that even if it wasn’t it we would do it to give us some direction anyways,” Enright said.

The superintendent has some idea where the input might guide, though, if the 2015 Master Plan is any indication.

“The No. 1 thing people wanted was more trails and more connections so we are assuming that’s gonna be a trend again this time,” Enright said. “The survey and the public meeting, the results of those will verify if we are moving in the right directions.”

The 2015 to 2020 master plan is about 80 percent completed, he added, and officials are working on several other items.

Some trails were scheduled to be sealed this month, hopefully allowing more years before the asphalt needs to be repaved. The Pumpkinvine Trail leading from York Drive to Wayne Street is already 12 years old, but board members hope they can make it last longer. The Wayne Street Bike Path, Riverbend Park parking lot and Krider World’s Fair Garden Park parking lot are also being sealed.

The parks are also seeking a grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Next Level Trails, a new grant program offering $90 million toward the construction of new trails, is offering its first round of funds.

During the first round, the DNR has allocated $25 million toward the grants, but only $5 million of that is designated for local projects, Enright said.

“We were hoping to beat a bunch of people to the punch and found out that there’s $144 million worth of projects fighting for that $5 million,” he said.

Should it receive the grant money, the parks department intends to use it to build a new trail to be known as the River Mill Trail. It will connect the Riverbend Park and Olde Mill Park east along C.R. 16, turning north on C.R. 116 and ultimately connecting to the Pumpkinvine. It would allow access to the trails for the Dawn Estates community behind Forks County Line Store.

“Our plan so far is to continue and if we don’t get (the grant) this round, to continue next round,” Enright said.

The Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department is also planning some re-engineering work on the trestle bridge at Krider World’s Fair Garden Park.

“The space of the boards was too long so the boards bow over time and it causes a tripping hazard,” he said. “It’s just not ideal conditions.”

The project, planned for November, will offer a better and more long-lasting subfloor to the historic bridge. The rest of the bridge remains in sound condition.

An additional project in conjunction with the Middlebury Public Library and the Middlebury Then and Now Committee will feature a series of signs through Riverbend Park with two pages of a children’s book on each. The dedication for the project is scheduled for June 1.

After that, the department will rely on the information gathered from the public to create its 2020 Master Plan and decide what to do next.

There will also be public meetings at 1 p.m. June 27 and 7 p.m. July 16 for the public to speak to members of the board directly.

“We hope to have a draft of the plan ready to show the public in August,” Enright said. “Our goal is to have it by the Middlebury Summer Festival (Aug. 9 and 10) at our booth.”

The town of Middlebury is also putting together a 2020 strategic plan with 11 key areas to focus on. Contact Middlebury Town Hall for more information on the town’s plan at 574-825-1499.

The survey to contribute to the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department strategic plan is located at www.surveymonkey.com/r/FHG8XZT.

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